FOR THE LOVE OF SHEILA
The day was briskly cool, as Sheila sat at the open window in her room within her mother's castle. She curled up on the window seat staring out onto the world, her knees pulled tight to her chest, not from the cold, but from the overwhelming press of her own insecurities. Sometimes she wondered what it would be like to feel cold. It has been a while that she had been on this world, but the demon blood that ran through her veins was still acclimated to the extremes she had been forced to exist through in her childhood. Looking out to the crisp day, she imagined herself walking along the grounds, bundled up in thick clothes, swaddled in a heavy cloak just like everyone else. For an instant it was a soothing thought to her, but then she shivered reflexively. To be like everyone else, to be normal, meant she would no longer be able to walk naked in the snow and delight in the sensations on her flesh, without them becoming too uncomfortable to bear. It was too odd a concept for her to fully grasp.
She untangled herself long enough to stretch out stiff limbs, and then curled back into herself. Her insecurities were playing excessively on her today. She was to go for her first formal visit, at the home of a local noblewoman. She had been comfortable at her Aunt Delyzsa's house, learning to restrain her baser self, being able to spend long days practically alone, in the lower levels of the dwelling, helping her aunt with her Craft, and working on projects of her own, while trying hard to understand the social expectations and ideas of this strange world.
One evening, while they were organizing spell ingredients, Delyzsa tilted her head, inspecting Sheila carefully. The notion had come over her that Sheila needed to socialize more with other people. It was time to send the young demon / fel-ra to her mother. She was to be "Introduced."
Felinea did not care for the social circles of most nobles, with their gossip circles and upstairs intrigue, so Sheila's introduction to that aspect of the greater society had been delayed. Her mother had allowed her to get used to being around her and Fairborne and the servants and workers of their castle, before working in more people. Eventually she felt secure enough with Sheila's level of social ability that she took her on a tour of several taverns, meeting places, fighting institutions, and the homes of several good, if lower class, friends. It was all very casual and they had a lot of fun, as well as spending time to get to know each other. She no longer thought of Felinea of as a stranger that happened to be related to her. She was developing a relationship with the mother she has been torn from when she was born.
As pleasant as it had been, it eventually had to change. It was now time to buckle down and meet Society. She was not looking forward to it.
A soft knock sounded on the door. Sheila sat up and made a quick presentability check, before calling out, "Enter."
Felinea entered with a grace and strength of presents that Sheila knew in her heart that she would never achieve. As much as she was growing to love her mother she also envied her. Felinea had the kind of striking beauty that causes people to gasp in awe when they saw her. Sheila felt herself slump slightly. She had such extraordinary parentage, yet Sheila was such a plain-looking person herself. Her hair was lifeless dark blond, eyes were a dull grey, face too round and her complexion too overly pale, especially when she stood beside her naturally bronzed mother. In all those many long nights at her aunt's house, she had spent hours searching through the magic tomes in search of some spell to make her more attractive. She longed to look more like her mother, to have her deep black, silky hair, her sparkling bright green eyes, and the delicate yet strong almond-shaped face with its sharp cheekbones. She would kill to give up her own awkward, clumsy body in exchange to the sleek, curvaceous form of her mother. Despite Sheila's low opinion of her own looks, Felinea never failed to look upon her daughter with great love and honestly tell her how beautiful she was. And yet Felinea seemed to be blind to her own beauty. Was her mother secretly as insecure about her physical appearance as Sheila?
"Are you ready?" Felinea asked.
"You are taking me? I thought you said Fairborne was better at these things, so he was going to take me."
"Your step father is busy with things that cannot be set aside for this. I could not pawn off a silly tea party on him, when he has greater matters which need attending. We will just have to suffer through tedious conversation and pretentious tea at Lady's Jessica's together. I am just hoping she has not invited too many of her busy body friends." Felinea rolled her eyes at the last part and then turned a warm smile to her daughter. "They are all anxious to meet you."
"Me?" Sheila was honestly surprised. "Why would they want to meet me?"
Felinea looked at her daughter as if she should already know this, but it did not reflect in her tone when she answered. "My father is the King of a very large and powerful Kingdom. I am his heir and you are mine. To these social hens a chance to marry a son off to you would be a major social coup." She chuckled slightly. "Mostly, I think they are curious to see what kind of offspring I would spawn. I am the only Fel-ra these people have ever known. To them I might as well as be as demon as the donator of the sperm that created you." Felinea smiled broadly loving the idea of torturing the curiosity of the local ladies.
Sheila sighed. "I fear they will find me terribly disappointing."
"You should not talk such nonsense, Child." Felinea said. "Trust me. They will be utterly compelled by you. One look and they will know there is something amazingly special about you. They will eat it up, too. Now come along and do not forget your cloak. Appearances are everything and best to look as normal as possible for now."
They both chuckled at that. Neither would ever be "normal" by the standards of these human noblewomen.
When they arrived at Lady Jessica's receiving hall, there were already eight other women and their daughters present. Through the glass of the balcony doors they could see the men, braving the cool air to separate themselves from the woman, so they could play cards, speak of politics, smoke expensive cigars, and drink overpriced whiskey. Sheila looked around the room at the faces of the woman pretending not to stare at her, and wished she could be out in the open air of the balcony with the men.
A woman hurried over to dote sickeningly over Felinea. Her mother tolerated the attentions for a few minutes, before distracting the sycophant by introducing Lady Jessica to Sheila.
"Let me see you, Child," Lady Jessica said, taking Sheila's hands, holding them out from her body and examining her closely. Sheila felt like a prize heifer being inspected for sale. "Oh my! What marvelously smooth and milky skin you have. It is like fine porcelain. And however do you get your hair to frame that lovely face so perfectly?" She dropped Sheila's hands and leaned in close to her face. "Those eyes are simply marvelous. So pale and clear, it is like staring into pure crystal. How delightfully lovely you are. I suppose that is to be expected given that you are your lovely mother's child. Come! I have so many people for you to meet."
Lady Jessica began ushering her though introductions, but Sheila was barely conscious of any of it. Her logical mind told her that Lady Jessica was just trying to be polite, or more likely trying to suck up to Felinea. Sheila's mother was the richest person they all knew, and was very powerful politically and magically, as well as heir to a throne and revered as a goddess in some realms. These women could possibly be so intimidated by Felinea that they would call a horned toad beautiful if they thought it would ingratiate them to her. However, the foolish part of Sheila's heart soared with the compliments given. She had never been so appraised. Well, her mother complemented her all the time, but was that not what mothers were meant to do? There were also Delyzsa, Maxematte, Marlique and Monique, but the same logic applied there, since they were her aunt, woman who might as well be her grandmother, and her half-sisters.
Sheila had to admit she had lived a sheltered existence in many ways. She remembered very little of her time growing up on her father's realm. The early days with Delyzsa were also foggy. She remembered being a very solitary creature after Delyzsa decided she was in enough control of her demonic self to allow her to become part of the regular world. On occasion she would tolerate being taken to visit Maxematte and girls, or Uncle Dern, but usually she insisted on being on her own. All of this was so new and so overwhelming.
As the main attraction at this gathering, she was seated in the midst of the gaggle of women. She found it difficult to keep up with conversations she barely understood. At one point she looked around for her mother, and found she had managed to seat herself in a corner apart from the others. She envied her mother's ability to become unnoticeable at will. Sheila would pass over any ego boost the compliments and attention gave her to fade into the background, or better yet to leave.
Eventually the gentlemen began to filter in and join them. Sheila found herself on even more unfamiliar ground. Several young gentlemen surrounded her, vying actively for her attention. She was not quite sure what was expected of her. Soon she realized that if she allowed them to get on the subject of themselves, they would speak at great length and all she had to do was smile and nod until the next one interrupted to boast of his exemplary qualities. Sheila soon found her attentions wandering, as she feigned interest.
Sheila's eyes were drawn to the balcony, where many of the older men still sat, blustering at one another. Directly in her line of vision was a maid, silently cleaning up after the noblemen and trying to be as nondescript as possible. Sheila could not keep her eyes off of the female. She was a very thin girl with few curves to herald her femininity and a face that emphasized this with how gaunt it was. Her hair was almost as dark and Felinea's; her large almond-shaped eyes matched the colour of the hair almost exactly and were embellished with very dark thick make-up around them. The girl's skin was almost as pale as Sheila's own, making the narrow lips, pouting ever so slightly, stand out all the more with their colour of burgundy wine as seen through moonlight. For just an instance their eyes met and Sheila's heart raced.
Annoyingly the wannabe suitors drew her attention away, and when she finally caught a chance to glance back at the balcony, she started in surprise. Where the maid had been stood a male servant. The face was slightly more angular, the hair was shorter and hung rakishly over his face, but other than that he looked much like the maid. He too was thin, but well-defined muscles show though his uniform. Sheila was spellbound.
It did not last long, for soon she found herself being ushered out into the formal gardens with the other young people. One of the young gentlemen seemed to be intimidating enough that he was winning out in the vie for her attention by running off the other, presumably social lesser, males. His name was Charles and his father was an Earl of a very agriculturally prosperous hamlet and the Lord of a trade rich land incorporating a few villages. She got the great pleasure of listening to him speak at great length about all of his many hunting expeditions. Sheila was bored to tears.
"Are you not cold, Princess Sheila?"
Sheila was taken aback. It was the first time anyone had ever referred to her as Princess. Technically it was accurate, she was the heir to the Heir to the Sardiac thrown, but she had always been just Sheila or on occasion someone would refer to her as Lady Sheila. "Pardon?" She asked, partly trying to cover how flustered she was at being called Princess and partly because she genuinely had forgotten what he had asked.
"You have forgotten your cloak. Are you not cold?" Charles inquired.
"Yes, I suppose I am cold," Sheila said, secretly thrilled that she had been handed her excuse to get away. She plastered an unfelt, but polite, smile on her face. "I was so fascinated by everything you were saying; I suppose I simply forgot to grab my cloak. I will go retrieve it now."
"I will accompany you," offered Charles.
"NO!" She blurted, before regaining her decorum. "Sorry. It is quite all right. You stay with your friends. I will hurry and catch up with you soon enough." He began to protest, but she assured him she would feel bad if he missed out on anything because of her forgetfulness until he acquiesced. She turned and hurried away before he could think to protest further.
She rounded a turn, paying more attention to how she was going to make her escape and in such a way that she did not completely upset her mother, than where she was going, so did not see the tray full of glasses of wine coming toward her, until she ran headlong into it. Wine splashed all over her pale green dress and the uniform of the servant carrying the tray. As the tray loudly clattered to the ground, Sheila apologized as she stopped to help clean up the mess. Realization dawned. For the first time her eyes raised to see into whom she had run. It was the maid from the balcony earlier.
"Your beautiful dress will be ruined, if we do not get that wine out quick," the maid said softly. Gently she took Sheila's hand and led her away. It never occurred to Sheila to do anything else but follow the woman. Forgotten were the tray and broken glasses. She did not even notice that they were not going to Lady Jessica's manor, but through the gardens and down a small path that led across the grounds. At the edge of the woods in a far corner of the estate was a small house.
As they walked in the pale yellow door of the cottage, the maid asked, "Shall I send Chance to tell your mother of your whereabouts?"
"No," Sheila said, feeling like she was in a dream, "Um …"
"Random," the girl provided, somehow knowing that Sheila had been grasping to put a name to the person before her, before Sheila realized what she had been trying to figure it out herself.
"No, thank you, Random," Sheila continued. "My mother has a strange way of just knowing things." Thinking of her mother pulled her out of her fugue enough to take in her surroundings. "Is it not odd of servants to have private houses on the estate?"
"Not when the servants are the bastard children of the Lord," Random replied.
All Sheila could think to say was, "Oh." Who was she to judge anyone? Technically she was a bastard, also, but since Felinea had no other children yet, it was not an issue, and, really, who was going to challenge Felinea on the subject of whether Sheila was legitimate or not?
The cottage was so small that the living room, dining room and bedroom were all the same room. Off of that room was a small kitchen and another room that Sheila assumed was a lavatory. For a person who had spent most of her remembered life in the self-imposed isolation of her chambers or the library, the house seemed quite safe and comforting.
Random was removing her soiled uniform. Sheila became entranced as she watched the grey dress slip, exposing inch after inch of wonderful flesh. Random's milky white breasts were small, but very round, with pale nipples of a sweet pink. Her stomach was smooth and perfectly contoured to what was below. Sheila's mouth watered and she could feel a warm thrill fill her from below, as her eyes rested on the soft inviting area nestled between Random's slender legs.
Sheila had not heard Chance when he came behind her, removing her dress, until his gentle caress met her own full breasts. She shivered, pressing back against him as his hands brushed tenderly over her erect brown nipples. Her eyes remained on his twin sister as she walked toward them. Sheila thrilled at the feel of Chance's bare flesh and the press of his excitement along her buttocks. His hands worked their way down between her legs and caringly separated them, as Random knelt before Sheila. As Random's hot breath played on her, she allowed herself to fall back completely on Chance. His hands eagerly caressed her as his sister brought her closer and closer to the throws of ecstasy.
Random pulled Sheila lovingly down on her knees and forward into her embrace. Random leaned back pulling Sheila with her, the later moaning softly as she felt Chance enter her. The thought unexpectedly alighted in her mind that she had finally found home and it was with these two.
Sheila woke in the morning happily snuggled between her two new lovers. She did not know how late it had been before they all finally drifted off to sleep from exhaustion, but she did know that it had been the most contented sleep she could ever remember having. She was suddenly excited to tell her mother that not only had she found love, but also her soul mate existed in two separate bodies. And she had met them by random chance.
Felinea had been watching when Random had crashed into Sheila. She had also been watching as the maid followed the group into the garden. She heard the subliminal psychic nudge she had planted in Charles's head to mention the cloak. As Random purposely ran into Sheila, Felinea had smiled.
For months Random and Chance had been coming to the castle a couple of times a week to receive tutoring from Felinea. They had a natural psychic link with one another that they wanted to extend and of which they wanted to explore the potential. In the beginning, Felinea did not know if the ability could be expanded for any use other than between the two of them. The twins carried between them one soul separated by some strange act of the gods between two bodies. However, the separation had not been complete. They were of the same mind, with no distinction in thinking, sensations or feelings. Felinea had seen Random prick her finger and Chance bleed at the same time.
Recently their visits to IronWolfe-Chatten castle had become more frequent. The reason was not hard to ascertain, since it corresponded precisely with Sheila's arrival at the castle. During one of their tutoring sessions Chance had gone to relieve himself and had caught a glimpse of Sheila. Since then, Felinea had amusedly watched as the twins spent as much time as possible spying on Sheila. She found it cute that Random-Chance was in love.
Even though to Sheila today was her first meeting with the twins, they had in fact met over and over. Random and Chance found a way to extend their link to another person … Sheila. Every night they reached out to her, pulling her into their dreams. It did not surprise Felinea at all to see Sheila walk off with Random. After all, for over a month her daughter had unknowingly been in love.
With Sheila finally finding her way to where she belonged and Felinea's actual reason for bringing her here accomplished, she stole away from the tea party, so she could go back home. The day was slowly fading into a lazy evening, so Felinea chose to send her carriage ahead of her and walk. Her driver insisted it was too far a distance for her to walk, especially alone, but she ordered them to leave, so they had no choice but to obey. The fact was she had much running through her mind and needed time to work it all out. If she took the small paths through the woods, instead of the roadway, it was only five kilometers until she was back on her own land, and if she decided she did not want to walk after all, she had other means to get herself back home.
It had been happily pleasant to have Sheila with her for a while, now that she had settled down a bit more. When she had finally found a way to rescue her daughter, only less than a year had passed in Felinea's world, but in the dimension that was Kechlier-Hel years had passed. Sheila had spent, what was for her, eighteen years living and surviving in a world of demons. In Shee-lah's mind Felinea was an enemy trying to steal her away from her beloved father and God of her world. There was so much hatred in Shee-lah's eyes the first time she saw her mother that Felinea briefly thought that maybe it was too late to save her baby.
Once they had gotten Sheila and Maxemelle's twins, Monique and Marlique, back to this world, Felinea soon found that she was ill equipped to take care of her daughter. At the time Felinea's lifestyle kept her always on the go and usually in some sort of danger. That was hardly the life she wanted for her daughter. She also realized that she was not in a position to take care of Sheila's needs and help her through the madness that ensued after the rescue. Hearing Sheila scream for her father and cursing Felinea for destroying him nearly drove Felinea mad herself. Sheila wanted to kill herself and take everyone in this world with her, especially Felinea. It broke Felinea's heart to see her daughter go through that and broke it even more to have to keep Sheila chained down and coved in wards, so that she could not hurt anyone else or herself.
Eventually, Felinea was forced to do the best thing she could think to do. Fighting through the feelings of guilt of abandoning her child again, she left Sheila with someone that could better help her. When Delyzsa finally sent for Felinea to return, she found a completely different daughter than when she left. Shee-lah had been black and blue … literally. Her hair and skin were a deep dark blue, just like the demon that had sired her. Her eyes were blacker than a starless midnight, as were her nails and the horns that protruded from her forehead. Vampire-esc fangs and a long prehensile barbed tail had been the finishing touches of the demonic visage that was Shee-Lah. Delyzsa taught Sheila to control the rage of her demon self and the vestigial of her outer demon faded away. When Felinea had arrived to retrieve her, a new blond haired, grey eyed, pale girl threw herself into her arms. They both cried.
None of this had anything to do with why she had chosen to walk home. She had been mulling over the dilemma of Dawn's death. She wanted nothing more than to hunt her murderer down and remove his skin inch by inch, pouring salt onto the exposed muscles, keeping the bastard alive for as long as possible, so he could feel every agonizing moment of the pain before death came for him. Unfortunately she could not do that.
Darkon's sect of the IronWolfe Clan was an extremely proud lot and insisted on taking care of their family business among themselves. Despite the fact that many old family fences were supposedly being mended, they still kept themselves separated from the rest of the family in many ways. Even if they had allowed the rest of the family to help, she did not think it would have included her. Felinea had been raised by Darkon's brother and had married one of his sons, but she thought, to him, she was still an outsider. She did not think he cared for her much and would never see her as family.
There were too many things about Felinea of which Darkon disapproved. He had always suppressed the magical side of his heritage, which was one of the reasons he had separated himself from his siblings, all of whom had become powerful magic users. Felinea had followed in her adopted father's and her biological father's shoes and became a sorceress. She never knew why he had such a dislike for magic put she could tell very strongly that he disapproved of her practicing of the craft and disapproved even more of her having been taught by his older brother.
The second thing that earned her a cold place in his heart was that her father was Tameron Chatten. Derhan had once confided in her that his brother hated the Fel-Ra King of Sardiac. In fact, the long scar on Darkon's right bicep had been placed there by Tameron's claw. When she asked why the hatred between the two of them was so intense, Derhan had responded with a flat, "It is better not to ask."
Her third failing with her father-in-law had been when she committed the mortal sin of hurting, not just one, but two of his children. She had broken Ringo's heart when she met his brother Fairborne and instantly fell in love with him, leaving Ringo behind. Then later she left Fairborne to run off with others. Even though she eventually found her way back into the arms of her husband where she belonged, Darkon was not as forgiving as his son. He had no tolerance for those willing to bring pain to the hearts of his sons.
The brunt of it all was that she knew she would be unwelcome to join her brother-in-law, Castellan, in avenging the death of his wife. His eldest brother, Richard's, death followed by Dawn's had hit Fairborne hard. She did not stand in the way when he decided to leave to join his family in their quest to avenge his sister-in-law. She supported him completely. She just wished she could accompany him, help him in his mission. She knew she would miss him horribly and worry about him constantly, but she always did when he went off on his regular adventures. This time he had a better cause for leaving, but it did not make it easier for her to watch him leave, or wait for his return.
As the night grew dark, she came upon her castle via a side path that led to the stables. She approached, still in a contemplative mood, and was surprised to see her husband fully packed and ready to leave.
"I thought you were not going to leave until the morning," she said with hurt accusation.
Fairborne sighed and gave his wife a guilt-ridden expression. "I thought it would be better if I were to leave while you were gone. I thought to save us a difficult goodbye."
An awkward silence settled over them for several minutes, while he checked the straps on his packs.
"You don't think you will be back, do you?" Felinea asked in almost a whisper.
"It is a matter of honour, Felinea," He replied. "We must avenge this injustice, no matter what the cost. Even if that means laying down our own lives."
Felinea put her hand lovingly on the side of her husband's face and brought it around to look into his eyes. "I will not let it come to that. After everything we have been through, I think I am the only one with the right to kill your stubborn ass."
He smiled at her. "Does that mean I have the same right with you?"
"You could try," she chuckled confidently. He smacked her bottom and she laughed, pressing herself to him. She rested her head on his shoulder and became serious. "If you need me, just call out and I will be there in a blink. I swear."
"I know," he said and wrapped his arms around her. He kissed her tenderly, but soon it became more desperate as they both worried it would be their last.
She was the first to pull away. "You had better leave before I decided to chain you to our bed and never let you go again." She forced herself to smile at him, when all she wanted to do was cry.
He caressed her cheek for a moment then walked off.
She stood completely still staring after him, long after he had disappeared from view. She wiped away her tears and went inside of their home -- alone.
Original work and all revisions © SAM Blaize and Jo Dheilly.